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Child Nutrition Commodity Programs

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports the National School Lunch Program and agricultural producers by providing schools with nutritious, USDA-purchased food (donated commodities). Donated commodities must be domestic in origin and a significant portion must have been determined to be in surplus at the time of the USDA purchase.

Over the past several years, donated commodities have contributed from $.15 - $.17 per lunch served. MCPS Food and Nutrition Services has received and utilized canned and fresh fruits, frozen and canned vegetables, ground beef and turkey, peanut butter, eggs, cornmeal, and flour. Additional “bonus” purchases also significantly help offset the cost of providing lunches to students. The amount of bonus purchases varies from year to year, but as an example, for the 2004-05 school year, bonus orange juice led to a cost avoidance of over $500,000 for orange juice that did not have to be purchased.

Donated commodities vary from year to year, but include foods from categories of meats, fruits, vegetables, juices, eggs, grains, and nuts, and all contribute to the nutritional integrity of school lunches. USDA’s specifications for donated commodities change with ongoing scientific research relating to child nutrition – from canned fruits in heavy syrup to light syrup or juice-packed, lower fat meats and increased availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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